Automobile Row

Downtown Rochester

Automobile Row

Rochester, Minnesota 55902, United States

Created By: History Center of Olmsted County


At the dawn of the automobile age in Rochester, the 300 block of South Main Street, today’s First Avenue SW, had great significance. Newspapers of the day referred to the 300 block as Automobile Row because of the businesses that started there.

On this east side of old Automobile Row, Vernon Witherstien and W.C. Gilbert opened Rochester’s first Ford automobile agency in the back-storage area of Thomas Barber’s carriage shop in 1908. Known as The Auto Construction Company, it was located at 324 South Main Street and would become the second auto agency in Rochester, behind Ellis & Edwards on North Broadway, but they would be the first on the 300 block of South Main Street. Witherstien and Gilbert soon sold out to their manager, Roger Mills, who later took a job in Minneapolis and closed Auto Construction in 1910.

Carter Wakefield opened a garage at 22 West Third Street in 1908. In 1910, needing room to expand, he moved around the corner to 318 South Main and built a modern, fireproof garage and sold Cadillac and Kissel Kar. Wakefield sold the business to his mechanic Carl West the following year who would remain in business there until 1928.

In 1925, Edward Fogarty opened the Olmsted County Oil Company filling station next to Carl West’s garage at 312 First Avenue SW. This would be one of two filling stations on the 300 block that would help create the legend of Automobile Row.

History Center of Olmsted County

This point of interest is part of the tour: Downtown Rochester


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